Pop Culture & Performing Arts

Duke Ellington: An American Composer and Icon

Beautifully illustrated and unparalleled in scope, this is an elegant visual celebration befitting the life and work of the "prince of the piano." Duke Ellington was the undisputed father of the American songbook. A prolific writer and consummate performer, Ellington was the author of such standards as "Solitude," "Prelude to a Kiss," and "It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got that Swing)." With a career that spanned five decades, he is one of the defining composers of the Jazz Age. With unprecedented access to the Ellington family archives, this long overdue book illuminates the life and work of an icon of twentieth-century music from his humble beginnings to his long-lasting success. Every stage of Ellington’s career is brought to life, from sepia photographs of his early days in Washington, DC, to colorful playbills from the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, his triumphant tours of Europe in the 1930s, and his pioneering explosion of form and genre in the 1940s and beyond. Alongside more than two hundred stunning images, contributions from peers such as Dave Brubeck, Cornel West, Quincy Jones, and Tony Bennett shed light on Ellington’s musical legacy, while the voice of his granddaughter Mercedes reveals the character behind the charisma, and the man behind the piano.

About The Author

Mercedes Ellington has danced in and choreographed many Broadway productions, including programs at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Steven Brower is the author of Woody Guthrie Artworks and Satchmo: The Wonderful Art and World of Louis Armstrong.

Tony Bennett is a legendary jazz singer whose career has spanned decades.

Dave Brubeck was an acclaimed experimental American jazz pianist and composer.

Cornel West is a philosopher, activist, political commentator, and occasional musician.

Quincy Jones is a musician, composer, and record producer, with a record seventy-nine Grammy Award nominations.

  • Publish Date: March 22, 2016
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Category: Music - Genres & Styles - Jazz
  • Publisher: Rizzoli
  • Trim Size: 8-15/16 x 12
  • Pages: 224
  • US Price: $55.00
  • CDN Price: $55.00
  • ISBN: 978-0-8478-4813-3


"The scores of photos, illustrations and reproductions of documents make this book a valuable supplement to the growing stack of Ellington biographies: Bennett’s watercolor painting of Ellington, the 10-piece 1920s band looking bemusedly at the camera, Ellington peering over the feathered headdresses of Cotton Club chorus girls, President Eisenhower’s note of appreciation, Duke playing a piano duet with actor Jimmy Stewart."

"[Duke Ellington: American Composer and Icon] is a beautifully produced book - the best I've ever seen on the Duke. Rather than being a dry biography, it's both a page-turner and visual celebration of a fabulous life and career. The book also paints a vivid portrait of the jazz age and the Harlem Renaissance. I know I'll be flipping through the pages to enjoy it again and again."